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National roundup: Houston news; arrest in murder; Christie's veto
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 3037 times since Tue Aug 11, 2015
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A conservative Christian pastors' group in Houston has once again sued Mayor Annise Parker over issues relating to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, a city law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to . The Houston Area Pastors Council sued Parker for legal fees and damages associated with an earlier suit, which had accused city officials of impeding the group's efforts to put the equal-rights ordinance to a popular vote. The City Council passed the ordinance in May 2014; however, shortly thereafter, opponents led by the pastors' group circulated petitions seeking to put the measure before voters.

Also, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that city leaders must either repeal its controversial equal rights ordinance, enacted in May 2014, or place it on the November ballot, noted. The Houston equal-rights ordinance ( HERO ) bans discrimination in areas such as employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, it also adheres to federal laws that prohibit discrimination because of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information as well as family, marital or military status.

Baltimore police announced the arrest of a Hagerstown, Maryland, man in connection with the murder of a transgender woman last summer, The Washington Blade reported. Shawn Oliver, 44, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of Mia Henderson. Oliver allegedly stabbed Henderson in the chest, arms and back in West Baltimore on July 16, 2014; authorities found Henderson's body in an alley. Henderson was the sister of professional basketball player Reggie Bullock, who now plays for the Detroit Pistons.

Starting this fall, students applying to the University of California will have the option to choose among six gender identities listed on undergraduate admissions forms: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming and different identity, the L.A. Times reported. The identity choices, officials said, are intended to help serve the student body of each campus. The university system previously had offered just two gender options: male and female.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ( R ) vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for transgender people to change their name and gender identification on their birth certificates, The Huffington Post reported. The presidential candidate claimed the bill would result in "legal uncertainties" and that it raised "legitimate and significant concerns" over security. The Birth Certificate Modernization Bill would allow state agencies to change a transgender person's birth certificate, as long as the individual provided proof of undergoing treatment for a gender transition from a medical professional.

Judge Victoria S. Kolakowski of the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda County, was elected to serve as president of the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Judges at its Aug. 6 annual meeting, according to the organization's website. Formerly the vice president, Kolakowski has the distinction of serving as the organization's first transgender president. The term of the officers end at the August 2016 annual meeting that will be held during the Lavender Law Conference in Washington, D.C.

During last week's GOP presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio Gov. John Kasich drew applause for saying that he accepted same-sex marriage even though it was counter to his "traditional" views, The Huffington Post noted. In the past, he supported a ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio; however, during the debate he said, "Just because they don't think the same way doesn't mean we shouldn't love them. That's what we're taught when we have strong faith."

Transgender Law Center launched the Positively Trans ( T+ ) survey, a first-of-its-kind community-led needs assessment to examine the legal and policy landscape as experienced by transgender women, men and gender non-conforming people living with HIV/AIDS across the country, a press release stated. The survey is open for responses in English and in Spanish., and aims to be a safe and anonymous place for trans and gender non-conforming people living with HIV to share their experiences with barriers, discrimination, violence, and triumphs in health care, housing, employment, relationships and community. Visit

A 12-year-old boy was arrested in Orlando, Florida, after allegedly shooting at a transgender woman, who was not hit, according to an EDGE Boston item. Shandebine Sherrington, 26, said the boy used anti-gay slurs before shooting at her seven times. Sherrington said she ran away from the boy, but once she realized he ran out of bullets she said she decided to turn around and chase him. The pre-teen was arrested and charged with attempted murder and grand theft of a firearm.

Bishop T.D. Jakes thinks it is "absolutely" possible for the LGBT and black communities to coexist, The Huffington Post reported. Speaking on HuffPost Live, Jakes said, "I think that it's going to [differ] from church to church. Every church has a different opinion on the issue and every gay person is different." While Jakes believes churches are allowed to practice and preach values shared by their respective leaders, he also advocates that LGBT people attend a church that aligns with their own beliefs and values. And although he admits that his individual stance on homosexuality is both "evolved and evolving," he says all LGBT people should be treated with tolerance and respect.

Gay City News reported that transgender students are entitled to respect for their preferred names and pronouns, confidentiality, and access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity under a new guidance that the New York State Education Department issued. The guidance comes on the heels of a four-year study, which was issued in June, by the New York Civil Liberties Union ( NYCLU ) that found "pervasive discrimination and harassment faced by transgender and gender nonconforming youth in New York public schools across the state."

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reached a groundbreaking settlement with Shiloh Quine—a transgender woman held in a men's prison—to provide medical care, including gender-affirming surgery, determined necessary by several medical and mental-health professionals, according to a Transgender Law Center press release. In the settlement, the state also agreed to change its policies so that transgender prisoners can access clothing and commissary items consistent with their gender identity. The state also affirmed that it is revising its policies regarding transgender inmates' access to medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, including surgery.

The possibility of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton being held in contempt of court for impeding gay rights diminished after a lawyer said the state agreed to update vital records policies for same-sex couples, the Associated Press reported. Word of a resolution came only hours after Paxton told U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia—who had ordered Paxton to appear before him later this week—that no "high-ranking government official" should be compelled to personally show up in court barring extraordinary circumstances.

A Nebraska judge has struck down a policy that prevented same-sex couples from serving as foster parents or adopting state wards, the Associated Press reported. Lancaster County District Judge John Colborn declared the rules unconstitutional, citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex marriage. A spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the office was still reviewing the decision.

On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, more than 30 national LGBTQ organizations are endorsing the restoration of the law, which was gutted by the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, according to a National LGBTQ Task Force press release. Among those signing the letter to Congress were AIDS United, PFLAG National, Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and BiNet USA.

Anti-gay former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum presidential campaign organization is low on funds, according to an item. Campaign manager Terry Allen, Iowa state coordinator Jon Jones, and digital strategist Steve Hilliard have all left the campaign in the past few weeks. They do, however, plan to start a new pro-Santorum super-PAC, which can receive unlimited contributions.

In Rochester, New York, more than 100 people gathered to rally for transgender rights, WROC reported. The lined both sides of the street with multiple signs and banners, chanting songs like, "Stop the violence, stop the hate," and "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now." The rally was organized after a transgender woman named Nicole Clark was allegedly beat up on Monroe Avenue the previous week.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the National Organization for Marriage ( NOM ) must disclose its donor list in connection with the group's support of a people's veto of Maine's 2009 same-sex marriage law, The Bangor Daily News reported. NOM has already paid a record-breaking fine of $50,250 to the Maine Ethics Commission and registered as a ballot question committee, but it continues to resist revealing its national donor list. In May 2014, Maine Ethics Commission Chairman Walter McKee said that NOM has made a "mockery" of Maine's campaign finance disclosure laws.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told an audience while introducing GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee that the Supreme Court's landmark marriage equality ruling means that now people can marry lawnmowers, according to Raw Story. King has been stuck on the idea of people marrying his lawnmower since at least July 1, when he first made the comment, the Sioux City Journal reported. King most recently made headlines when he tweeted at Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro that he is just as "Hispanic and Latino as he."

In advance of the Aug. 6 GOP debate in Cleveland, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) released a video of Jim Obergefell—who's lived in Ohio for nearly five decades—asking candidates to defend his marriage and those of same-sex couples across the country, according to a press release. Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, that led to nationwide marriage equality in June. Earlier this year, HRC released a website,, that highlights the public statements of candidates on key issues including positions on marriage equality, support for anti-discrimination bills and history of anti-LGBT rhetoric, among others.

Former American Idol runner-up and Congressional candidate Clay Aiken thinks Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has a chance to shake up the U.S. political system for the better with his headline-grabbing candidacy, according to Gay Star News. "I think he has a really great opportunity even if he doesn't win the Republican nomination to do something I think the country has needed for a long time, which is to try to break this stranglehold of the two-party system," Aiken, an openly gay Democrat, told . In 1992, billionaire businessman Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate in a contest between Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, winning almost 19 percent of the popular vote.

In Alaska, future technology costs, low city-employee morale and a recommendation for a civil-rights law to add protections for LGBT people were among the issues and suggestions in a report that Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's transition team compiled, reported. The 31-page report makes recommendations in the areas of public safety, homelessness, administration, jobs and economy, and quality of life, signaled by the phrase "Live. Work. Play." In 2012, Anchorage voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 5, which would have added legal protections for LGBT people.

Days after the Boy Scouts of America lifted a blanket ban on gay leaders, a Utah group that pressed for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state announced it will sponsor a Boy Scout troop, ABC News reported. Although Mark Lawrence ( with the group Restore Our Humanity ) said getting it approved and running may be an uphill battle in the conservative state where most troops are sponsored by the Mormon church, he said the new Utah troop could be a model for the future.

In Kentucky, Greg Bourke said he learned that he still can't be a Boy Scout leader in a local Catholic parish troop—despite the fact that the Boy Scouts of America ( BSA ) voted last month to end its ban on openly gay adult leaders, USA Today reported. The BSA's new policy allowing openly gay leaders also allows church-sponsored units—including those in Catholic and Mormon churches—to choose local unit leaders who share their beliefs, even if that means restricting such positions to heterosexual men.

Officials in a second northern Indiana city have backed off expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity following a push by opponents against the proposals, the Associated Press reported. Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said he and City Council members agreed a vote wouldn't be taken on the proposed ordinance during a council meeting, and that any action would be delayed until at least next year. The mayor in the nearby city of Elkhart recently asked for council members there to withdraw a similar ordinance.

A lesbian couple reportedly faked a hate crime that left their home a pile of charred rubble at their Venore, Tennessee, property in 2010, The New York Daily News noted. An insurance company caught on to the ruse months after the blaze, and accused Carol Ann and Laura Stutte of perpetuating a hoax and blaming the fire on their neighbor. A federal jury ruled in favor of the insurance company's belief that the couple spray-painted an anti-gay slur on their own garage to spin the fire as a hate crime based on their sexual orientation.

Two couples who challenged South Carolina's gay-marriage ban want to be reimbursed by the state for almost $250,000 in attorney fees and court costs, the Associated Press reported. Same-sex couples had sued in federal courts in Charleston and Columbia for the right to be married or for South Carolina to recognize their marriages performed out of state. Judges can order losing parties to pay opponents' fees, especially in civil-rights cases.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the City of Chicago is poised to remove the exclusion of gender-reassignment services from city health-care benefits, according to a press release. The change will be implemented for all non-union employees, and the city is working with labor partners to also remove the exclusion for union members. The change, which will apply to current city employees and their dependents, would go into effect Oct. 1. Under the policy change, coverage of male-to-female or female-to-male surgical procedures would be standard for city employees covered by city health care plans and their dependents.

New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade—which has been subject to protests for 25 years over its refusal to include an Irish LGBT group—may be on the verge of admitting such a group in the 2016 parade, Gay City News reported. Organizers admitted NBCUniversal's corporate LGBT group, Out@NBCUniversal, to the 2015 parade. That did not satisfy Irish Queers or the hundreds of activists who have demanded that an Irish LGBT group be allowed to march with its own banner. The committee will announce its second LGBT group in September, and it is widely believed it will admit the Lavender & Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group founded in 1994 by Irish immigrant and gay activist Brendan Fay.

Rep. Todd Courser, a Republican lawmaker in Michigan, has been accused of having an affair with one of his colleagues, Rep. Cindy Gamrat. However, what makes this story unusual is that Courser made a staffer send out a bogus email claiming the lawmaker paid a male prostitute for sex outside a nightclub in Lansing, according to . Courser believed this "smear campaign" would make reports of an extramarital affair with Gamrat seem tame in comparison. House Speaker Kevin Cotter has ordered an investigation and sources say could face criminal misconduct charges.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights ( AFER )—which fought to overturn California's anti-gay Proposition 8—has announced it is ceasing operations. The announcement came approximately a month after the U.S. Supreme Court victory on marriage equality and the Freedom To Marry's decision to close down as well. Activists Chad Griffin ( now the president of the Human Rights Campaign ) and Kristina Schake founded AFER in 2009.

At least one anti-gay Christian is not pleased with a recent action a Chicago-based seminary took at a North Carolina festival, Queerty noted. At the 2015 Wild Goose Festival, an annual music fest held in Hot Springs, North Carolina, members from the Chicago Theological Seminary handed out free rainbow condoms with the following instructions: "Chicago Theological Seminary, Take Two ( For the second coming! )." Christian blogger and self-proclaimed "teller of America's betrayal" Bethany Blankley took personal offense to the condoms in a new op-ed saying the "seminary is likening the Second Coming of Christ to gay sex."

On Aug. 25, GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings is releasing the book One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Educators Speak Out About What's Gotten Better ... and What Hasn't, according to a press release. In One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium, the third volume in the One Teacher in Ten series, LGBT educators share their joys and struggles teaching in the new millennium. Previous volumes were released in 1994 and 2004.

The longtime board president of the Philadelphia-based COLOURS Organization, Inc., recently stepped down and the agency has named a new interim leader, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Lynette Medley-Thurman will take the reins from John Clayton, who helmed the board for about eight years. COLOURS was established in 1991 to respond to the lack of positive and progressive educational advocacy and support mechanisms for LGBT people of color in the Greater Philadelphia area, its website states.

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